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MANILA, Philippines – Even after publicly stating that there will be no more extension for public utility vehicles (PUVs) to consolidate, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. caved in to pressure and granted one last extension. So how will this new deadline affect commuters and operators of jeepney and UV Express units?
The most immediate effect is that unconsolidated jeepneys and UV Express units will still be allowed to ply their routes by February 1.
“Insofar as the LTFRB is concerned, wala pong hulihan (there will be no arrests) on matters of franchise,” said Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III in a press conference a day after Marcos announced the April 30 extension.
Previously, unconsolidated PUVs only had up to January 31 to ply their old routes before they were deemed “colorum,” according to an LTFRB memorandum circular. Under the government’s PUV Modernization Program, jeepneys and UV Express units are required to either form or join a cooperative or corporation to continue operating.
The LTFRB, however, has yet to release an updated memorandum on how it will implement the extension. The agency’s board is set to meet on Friday, January 26, to discuss it.
Rappler earlier reported that more than 1,900 unconsolidated routes nationwide could be wiped out by February 1. The latest extension gives operators an opportunity to still consolidate.
And according to transportation officials, it’s their last chance.
“Ito na ang final extension,” said Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Thursday, January 25. “‘Yung tatlong buwan ay, is I think enough time para do’n sa mga gustong mag-consolidate at mag-comply do’n sa mga requirements.”
(This is the final extension. Three months is, I think, enough time for those who want to consolidate and comply with the requirements.)
Until April 30, jeepney and UV Express operators will still be allowed to either join an existing cooperative or corporation, or form their own.
Bautista said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was ready to come up with a statement that achieving a 76% consolidation rate across the country would be sufficient to carry the program forward. In fact, Bautista was firm and consistent in publicly stating there would be no more extensions after the December deadline.
“But since merong clamor na sana magkaroon ng extension, kaya ang ating Presidente ay pinagbigyan itong mga humihingi ng more time for them to file their consolidation requirements,” he said.
(But because there was clamor for an extension, our President gave in to those asking for more time to file their consolidation requirements.)
Marcos granted the three-month extension mere hours after the House of Representatives approved a motion urging him to extend the consolidation deadline until the government can come up with a “concrete plan to address the major issues.” On the same day, House Speaker Martin Romualdez – the President’s cousin – held a dialogue with jeepney operators and drivers affected by the program.
Consolidation is non-negotiable
Although the DOTr’s Bautista and the LTFRB’s Guadiz repeatedly told protesting operators that their offices were open for negotiations, they drew a hard line on the issue of individual franchises.
“Ang gusto nila, ‘yung individual franchise (What they want is the individual franchise). But, you know, it will be contrary to the concept of consolidation. Dito sa consolidation (Here in consolidation), we will be very firm. We will require consolidation,” Bautista said.
Some operators and left-leaning groups, such as PISTON and Bayan, have been protesting industry consolidation, pointing to fears that it could allow businesses and large entities to monopolize public transportation.
But Bautista insists that consolidation will benefit both drivers and commuters. Through consolidation, PUV units could be allocated across routes more efficiently. It would ideally eliminate drivers competing for passengers along the same route. Operators can also pool their resources together for vehicle maintenance and for the next step in the government’s program: the purchase of pricey modern jeepneys.
The transportation secretary also emphasized that the granting of franchises for PUV routes is a privilege, not a right. That means that those who want to retain their franchise must play by the government’s rules.
“‘Yung franchise po na binibigay ng gobyerno ay hindi ‘yan right ng mga holders. It’s a privilege. Dapat naman siguro dahil binibigyan sila ng pribilehiyo ng gobyerno ay sumunod sila do’n sa mga requirements ng government,” he said on Thursday.
(The franchise that the government gives to the holders is not a right. It’s a privilege. Because the government is giving them this privilege, they should follow the government’s requirements.)
With the extension, the government expects the consolidation rate nationwide to rise from the current 76% to 85%. According to LTFRB Regional Director Zona Tamayo, 52% of PUVs in Metro Manila have consolidated as of December 31, and they expect that “the remaining 48% would heed this extension and eventually file their consolidation.” – Rappler.com